The Miniaturist

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Miniaturist
First edition (UK) with quotation from S. J. Watson
AuthorJessie Burton
Cover artistKatie Tooke, Andersen M Studio[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreHistorical fiction
Set inAmsterdam, 1680s
Published2014, Ecco (US), Picador (UK)

The Miniaturist is the 2014 debut novel of English actress and author Jessie Burton.[2] An international bestseller, it was the focus of a publishers' bidding war at the 2013 London Book Fair.[2] Set in Amsterdam in 1686–87, the novel was inspired by Petronella Oortman's doll's house on display at the Rijksmuseum. It does not otherwise attempt to be a biographical novel.[3]


Petronella (Nella) Oortman, a poor 18-year-old girl from the Dutch countryside, arrives at the Golden Bend home in Amsterdam of the wealthy merchant Johannes Brandt, who married her a month earlier. She steps into a house of secrets held by Brandt's ascetic sister Marin, the servants Cornelia and Otto, and Brandt himself, who treats her more like a friend than a wife. Brandt gives her a wedding present of a dollhouse designed to look like their nine room home in miniature, and she engages the services of a local miniaturist to add realistic furnishings to it. The miniaturist, whom she never meets, begins sending her lifelike dolls and furnishings that are eerily accurate, and even seem to predict the future. As a web of danger gradually ensnares the characters, Nella wonders if everyone's fate lies in the miniaturist's hands.[4][5]


The doll's house that inspired the novel

Burton, who had studied English literature at the University of Oxford before embarking on an acting career, wrote the novel over a period of four years whilst supporting herself as an actress and PA in the City of London.[3][5] She came up with the idea while on holiday in Amsterdam, where she viewed Petronella Oortman's doll house at the Rijksmuseum, and undertook extensive research on 17th-century Amsterdam, studying books, cookbooks, Dutch Golden Age paintings, maps, and wills.[2][3][5] She trimmed the word count from 120,000 words to 80,000 words after participating in a creative writing course in 2011 and to better match the marketing target population.[5]

The novel was the focus of a publishers bidding war at the 2013 London Book Fair.[2] Of the 11 publishers that vied for the book, Picador won the UK and British Commonwealth rights for a reported six-figure sum.[5][6]

The UK cover design is a photograph of an actual miniature house commissioned by Picador, which reflects characters and elements in the novel.[1][6]


By 2016, the book had sold over 1 million copies in 37 countries.[4]

While applauding the tone and setting of the novel, some reviews cited the shallowness of the characterizations. The Guardian and Chicago Tribune reviews observe that Nella is drawn more like a worldly, feminist 21st-century girl than a naïve 17th-century one.[7][8] The Chicago Tribune adds: "[The main characters are] complex and complicated and suffer terrible tragedies, but Burton doesn't give us a deep enough look into their psyches. I'd read 100 additional pages just to get inside Johannes' head".[8]

Awards and honours[edit]

In 2015 the novel also received a nomination for the Desmond Elliott Prize.[11]


BBC One debuted a two-part, 2.5-hour television adaptation of the novel in the UK on Boxing Day 2017.[12][4][13] The adaptation was written by John Brownlow, directed by Guillem Morales, and produced by The Forge in conjunction with the BBC and Masterpiece.[4][14] The series was filmed on location in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. It starred Anya Taylor-Joy as Nella, Romola Garai as Marin, Emily Berrington as The Miniaturist, and Alex Hassell as Johannes.[13] Episode 1 was seen by 4.52 million viewers and Episode 2 by fewer than 4.31 million viewers.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Designing the cover for The Miniaturist: the more you look, the more you see". Picador. 20 February 2014. Archived from the original on 5 July 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Jessie Burton: I never thought of The Miniaturist as ambitious". BBC News. 2 December 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  3. ^ a b c Spiegelman, Ian (29 August 2014). "Jessie Burton on the dollhouse that inspired her novel". USA Today. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d "BBC One announces adaption of Jessie Burton's sumptuous period thriller The Miniaturist (press release)". BBC One. 28 August 2016. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d e Morris, Linda (5 June 2014). "New author Jessie Burton has found success with 'The Miniaturist'". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Ex-CBC student Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist is out today". Curtis Brown Creative. 3 July 2014. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  7. ^ Cooke, Rachel (29 June 2014). "The Miniaturist review – Jessie Burton's much-hyped but unconvincing debut". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  8. ^ a b Memmott, Carol (29 August 2014). "Review: 'The Miniaturist' by Jessie Burton". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  9. ^ Tim Masters (1 December 2014). "Miniaturist novel named Waterstones book of 2014". BBC News. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  10. ^ "Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist voted Specsavers Book of the Year". BBC News. 22 December 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  11. ^ "The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton up for £10,000 Desmond Elliott book prize". BBC News. 2 April 2015. Retrieved 27 November 2016.
  12. ^ BBC website. "BBC: The Miniaturist". Retrieved 14 December 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Cast announced for TV adaptation of Jessie Burton's The Miniaturist". Pan Macmillan. 10 April 2017. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  14. ^ "Casting revealed for BBC One's gripping adaptation of The Miniaturist". BBC. 7 April 2017. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  15. ^ "Weekly top 30 programmes - BARB".

External links[edit]